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Coca-Cola criticizes Mexico's soda tax plan


Coca-Cola and other soda makers in Mexico criticized on Tuesday government plans to impose a tax on sugary drinks to curb the nation's high rates of obesity and diabetes.

President Enrique Pena Nieto has proposed to make Mexicans pay an extra peso (almost 8 US cents) for every liter of sweetened drinks, citing figures showing that the country competes with the United States for the dubious title of world's fattest nation.

But Coca-Cola de Mexico argued in a statement that "a tax on beverages is ineffective to combat a problem as complex as obesity."

"To change behaviors effectively, we need to ensure people understand that all calories count, regardless of the source -- and that includes our caloric beverages too," the company said.

Pena Nieto's plan, part of a wider fiscal reform he announced Sunday to improve tax collection, cites statistics showing that Mexico leads the world in soda consumption with 163 liters (43 gallons) per capita per year compared to 118 liters in the United States.

But the Mexican Association of Soda Makers argued that the special tax would "not resolve the obesity problem" while harming sugar cane producers as well as the poorest consumers in a country where 45 percent of its 118 million people live in poverty.

The tax would at best reduce the calorie intake of Mexicans by just 1.1 percent on average, the association said.

The 2012 national health survey shows that 32.4 percent of Mexican are obese compared to 35.7 percent in the United States, according to the latest official US figures.

Mexico has the highest prevalence of diabetes among the 34 nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) with 10.8 percent of the population suffering from the disease.